The Empty Seats


Here's an NPR story from today about the empty seats at the Athens games. If you've watched any of the events on television except for swimming, maybe, you've seen the vast stadiums totally empty. The report talks about how they've sold about half of all the tickets available and a women's basketball game yesterday where there were only 300 people in attendance in a stadium which seats 13,000. It's really sad.

But for some unknown reason, the report didn't mention the *price* of the tickets as the principal problem. Look online and you'll see that the price for events are incredibly expensive. €10 being the lowest, €20 being average and for the Men's gymnastics, there are only €120 and €200 seats available. This is ridiculous.

Let me tell you my experience when I was in Atlanta. They lied to us horribly. In the year or so before the 96 games began, there was nothing but non-stop advertisements talking about how the games were going to be sold out and how you better pre-order your tickets. But at first I couldn't buy the tickets becuase I didn't have a Visa card (this was only a few years out of college and my credit sucked). Finally, I got a visa card and immediately put myself deep in debt buying tickets for events because they were all going to be gone. (I saw water-polo, soccer and track and field). But of course as soon as the games began it became obvious how many tickets were still left. We could have easily bought tickets to most of the events the day of, and many times the prices were cheaper becuase you had the option of where to sit (the pre-ordering system, as I recall, gave you the most expensive tickets first).

Not only were the Atlanta games a disaster in terms of logistics (one guy had to steal a bus to get to his event), the bombing and the general over-commercial atmosphere - every Atlantan thought they were to going to get *rich, rich, rich* because of the games. But they left a bitter taste in my mouth because of the personal financial sacrifice I had to make in order to see events.

Back to Greece: This is not a country full of rich people. I spent almost a month there in 1998 and I can tell you that most people live quite modestly. If you wanted to bring you, your wife and a kid or two to an event, it could easily cost you €100 or more. For ONE event. And this doesn't take into account travel costs, etc. The average family in the U.S. couldn't afford those prices, let alone the people in Greece and they wonder why the stadiums are empty?

I'm pretty sick of the games as they are now. I think that the current sponsorship system is killing the games. We can't watch events here in the U.S. with constant commercials and the prices for the tickets even for the home country make it impossible for the people who footed the bill themselves to participate in the games. And when the games leave, all these facilities - which cost billions to construct - are going to sit there completely unused and decaying and sucking up untold amounts of money for maintenance. Yeah, Greece wanted all this, but the system has made sure that they are going to be saddled in debt for a long time.

I mean, since this is the case anyways, wouldn't it be better for the Athens organizers to slash the costs of the tickets? Hell, make events free if by an hour before the event the stadium isn't full? It's just sad to see the Olympics being completely overwhelmed by commercial interests like this.

You've got to love the U.S. broadcasters though: "Whoohoo! These games could suck worse than Atlanta's!!! Yeah! We won't be the worst any more!"


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